Category Archives: tree

Garden Envy

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I can be a little green with envy about gardens.  Pun intended.  Garden envy.  Any gardener out there can relate.  When I walk the streets of my town or thumb through a magazine I love looking at neighborhood gardens, the trees, flowers, veggies, and pots.  Our neighbors are creative with their plant, container, and cute garden art selections.  The most impressive are these moss baskets placed atop tall wooden posts.  Baby’s breath, impatiens, possibly geraniums cascade from holes inside the moss lining as well overflow from the top.  Dean and I plan to put in three of these planter poles and baskets in the new mulched terrace in the side yard next spring.  The flowers can be admired from our living room and bedroom windows as well as from the front and back yards.

While on vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia Dean and I visited the site of the oldest governor’s mansion.  Of course, the mansion, grounds buildings, and gardens are replicas.  We came across a colonial garden that captured my gaze for a few minutes.  I took this photo before we moved on with the tour.  The garden was not big, but big enough to yield a family a good share of food supply through the winter months.  All the rows neat and tidy.  Herbs in one patch; corn, vining beans or peas, squash and pumpkins create the 3-sisters in another patch; tomatoes and pepper plants caged, with flowering zinnias and marigolds surround.  So I am impressed to recreate a colonial-style garden for the next growing year.  I need to gather some books on colonial gardens to read over the winter months.  So what have you seen in a yard or garden that you would like to try for next year?  Or are you up to your eyeballs in zucchini and tomatoes right now to even think about next year’s garden like my friends Elizabeth and Gary in Festus, Missouri?  Take pride and you have grower’s bragging rights!  Happy gardening everyone!!!

Summer Labors of Love

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This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage.  Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door.  Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me.  But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass.  We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend.  There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight.  So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.

The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche.  Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture.  I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love.  Similarly,  the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk.  Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough.  Oh, so lemony!  A luscious summer bread for breakfast.  I made cake muffins with this batch.  If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert.  What are you making with your garden goodies?

 

Cottage Projects And Purposes

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Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years.  It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home.  In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends.  It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars.  Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage.  It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly.  Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence.  Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four.  There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.

With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends.  Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone.  Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays.  We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month.  But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit.  So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday.  May be able a Facetime event.

So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends?  We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work.  So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow.  We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors.  We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile.  We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors.  And what to do with the furniture while we work on it?  With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority.  Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting.  That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting.  The back awnings just need to be removed.  The back porch/deck needs to be replaced.  Fencing replaced, too.  And then there is the landscaping.  This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain.  I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea.  The weather temperature tells me which.

I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage.  Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan?  He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio.  A quiet space, purposeful place.  I found this cute place online used as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons.  I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this.  I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings.  My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?

 

April Evening At Boone Hollow Farm

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The vivid beauty of this spring season is present at Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance, Missouri.  In our attempt to get away from the urban or should I say “world” troubles, this farm became our mid-week oasis. It is almost magical at the farm where Dean and I’s greenhouse seats.  The lowering sun illuminated the purples and greens in the fields and groves of trees, the grass plush.  Birds singing their evening tunes, frogs peeping in unison, sheep in the neighbor farmyard baaing.  A serene symphony of countryside calm.  My country garden is a dwelling place for me, a bed to lay my cares aside.  Our sowed seedlings in the screenhouse side of the greenhouse are coming up well.  We are hopeful the leafy greens will be ready to provide the base for our salads by the end of April or early May.  In the mist of viral chaos there is a dwelling place for each of us, even if it is just in the mind.

 

White Fluff In This Green Season

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Over the course of the winter and this early spring the busy red and gray squirrels in our neighborhood have managed to empty the two patio cushions on our next door neighbors’ patio furniture.  I suppose the amount of leaves and branches in the neighborhood is not enough for these rascals.  Hoarders and self-absorbed.  Sound familiar?  The synthetic stuffing that I call “white fluff” has been scattered about in the immediate neighborhood found in the green grass, bushes, trees, leaves, and the huge squirrels’ nest in our cherry tree.  This has been going on over the past 5 months, with maybe the final unloading last night.  We don’t see another cushion laying in the yard or patio furniture, thank God. The neighbor who owns the patio cushions appears clueless or could give a darn.  Dean and I spent a few Saturday afternoons cleaning up the “white fluff” from our yard, and the next door church’s yard. A couple of months ago Dean fully emptied the one cushion the squirrels chewed a hole in and threw the remaining contents in the trash bin.  The squirrels found the other cushion, and chewed a hole in that one.  So a repeat with the second cushion, we have spent a good hour here and there cleaning up.  Rather comical at times, but mostly aggravating.

On a more serious note, this “white fluff” illustrates to me the novel corona virus and the community’s responses.  The squirrels are those people who carry the virus, and share their germs while out and about with their busy, careless activities like hoarding the toilet paper and taking their  children to the grocery store for a “social hour”.  The clueless neighbor is the person who refuses to self-educate with reputable, accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and seems to hide from life.  Dean and I are the millions of people trying to keep our world cleaned-up and safe for ourselves and others around us.  How about you?  Are you watching after yourself and those people placed immediately around you?  Surely you are not one of the squirrels making more of mess for the rest of us!  Let’s get this “white fluff “cleaned up, obey the social distancing rules, and pray we have a vaccine before the next season arrives.

Sanity Strolls

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The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter.  The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day.  The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches.  The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day.  We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up.  Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity.  Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us.  We now take a stroll twice a day everyday.  We see neighbors about, too.  If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately.  The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk.  First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom.  The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after.  Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display.  Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire.  Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.

 

 

Dormancy

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No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal.  The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days.  Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day.  Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year.  No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on.  Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains.  Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home.  Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both.  Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.

Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins.  We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon.  We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week.  Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments.  Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around.  Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.  

The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul.  Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure.  Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake.  It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations.  Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years.  Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.

This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career.  The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind.  The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song.  A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing.  Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.  In today’s words, live today, be present moment.  Some answers come eventually.

 

The Coziness of Winter

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The snow storm has all the schools closed as well as many offices closed or on a shorten day.  Dean’s office closed for the whole day and my office closed before lunch.  Fortunately our Jeep gets us through everything thus far that Missouri’s winters have dished out.  Don’t know what we will do when that vehicle dies.  Dependable.  It has almost 300,000 miles on it.  My Prince Charming came and swooped me up at the end of the sidewalk next to my Clayton office, onward to our cottage home in our blue metal carriage.

I came home to a bottle of Irish cream on the dining table and the Christmas tree set up, ready for the ornaments and trimmings.  A festive afternoon it is to be.  What a thoughtful hubby!   The cottage is small, and as well as our tree.  We always wait about a week before Christmas to decorate our tree.  Boxes of our holiday trimmings were brought up from the basement.  We had such a cozy day into the evening with the snow falling outside the window, Christmas carols playing, hanging the ornaments, decking the rooms, the warmth of the smooth spirits, butter cookies, and snuggles.

Our European friends create this atmosphere naturally through their traditions. “Koselig is a feeling: that of coziness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles,” written in Living In Norway  by David Nikel.  “You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced “koosh-lee”), as ‘coziness,’ but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There’s no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish ‘mys,’ the Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and the most well-known of these, the Danish ‘hygge’,” writes David G. Allan in is CNN health and wellness column “The Wisdom Project”.  “Basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting… a single word to express all at once love, friendship, comfort, trust, and most of all happiness” author, Lorelou Desjardins describes “koselig” in her blog Frog in the Fjord. 

So what makes you feel love, friendship, comfort, trust, and happiness all at once?  Could it be hot chocolate with home-baked cookies, sipping spirits, fire in the fireplace, candles lit, warm socks, cozy blankets, homemade jam made with local berries, snug long johns, soft flannel, oversized sweaters, scarves, slow & soft music, nature brought indoors, vegetation draped on a table top, and a communal encounter with a Christmas carol?  I wish you koselig this holiday season and into the New Year.

 

Back When

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The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention.  Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when.  A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl.  Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years.  But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays.  Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell.  Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees.  Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in.  My siblings and I included.  We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up.  Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.

 

A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations.  Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation.  There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops.  Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please!  Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall.  The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones.  Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from.  Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time.  But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”.  The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings.  I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s.  Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war.  Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations.  Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree.  Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house.  My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.